Dodger fans are restless as the team’s offense continues to struggle. Sure, timely home runs lifted L.A. to a series win over Arizona. But before that, the Dodgers scored 13 runs in 6 games in series losses to Colorado and San Francisco. At one point, the team had 13 hits in its last 34 innings, as acknowledged by Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.
It’s obvious the Dodgers need reinforcements, and those are unlikely to come internally. Yasiel Puig is making his way back, but a .237 average in 186 at-bats doesn’t exactly suggest he’ll be a big help. Andre Ethier won’t be taking live batting practice for another few weeks. L.A. could use help in about every phase of the game, but this piece will specifically examine the five best, realistic options to aid an inconsistent offense.
Note “realistic,” so no Mike Trout or Nolan Arenado suggestions. Carlos Gonzalez, a potential trade candidate and popular name, has been excluded.
Given Thursday’s standings (Colorado sits two games behind L.A.), the Rockies giving the Dodgers one of their best players is not happening. It’s hard to anticipate Colorado falling so far behind Los Angeles that a midseason trade with them is considered.
Recently, Los Angeles cut ties with Alex Guerrero and Carl Crawford, freeing up roster space. The organization deserves credit for eating Crawford’s money rather than continuing a failed experiment.
The Dodgers may be able to float in contention for the season without an upgrade, instead hoping players like Adrian Gonzalez return to the norm. But no one will take the team seriously in October as it stands.
Andrew Friedman and staff may not be as worried about it as the fan base, however. As has been suggested numerous times by fans and media alike, Friedman might be content to sit on his nucleus of young talent and tread water until it blossoms. Even if that’s the case, there are logical upgrades available that won’t cost a Julio Urias or Jose De Leon.
Interestingly, the best fits are in the outfield, where it once appeared the Dodgers were stacked. Ethier’s injury may permanently hamper his effectiveness and Puig remains a curious case. Trayce Thompson is showing signs of the long-term starting outfielder as well, so taking away his at-bats goes against Friedman’s philosophy. If L.A. swung a deal for another outfielder, it would presumably make Puig available (if he isn’t already).
One team with quite the presence on the list is non-other than the Dodgers opponent this weekend: The Milwaukee Brewers. Now, for the options.
Editors Note: *All stats as of 6/16/16*
5) Josh Reddick, outfielder, Oakland A’s; Danny Valencia, third baseman, Oakland A’s
Reddick stats: .322/.394/.466 in 146 at-bats (41 games)
Valencia stats: .333/.376/.560 in 168 at-bats (45 games)
This is cheating, but Reddick and Valencia are put together because it’s reasonable to see the Dodgers pursuing either or both. Neither option would be expensive, but both would boost the offense at weak spots.
The A’s have been wrecked by injuries. The franchise is in a tailspin and it’s nearing the point of a classic Billy Beane fire sale. Reddick and Valencia are expected to be parts of that. Reddick is a free agent after the season, so it would be an upset if Oakland kept him. He’s spent time on the disabled list, but performed admirably when healthy. A Reddick acquisition wouldn’t make a current Dodger outfielder available, but rather serve as a rental to help the team’s postseason hunt.
Valencia is signed through 2017, and would take at-bats from the struggling Justin Turner. Turner is being given time to work through it, but there may come a point the Dodgers get tired of waiting, and Valencia is one of the best offensive third baseman in baseball this season.
Either player would help remedy the offseason while not disrupting the team’s longterm outlook. Even a package deal wouldn’t force L.A. to dig deep into its farm. This is the most realistic outcome if Friedman’s history serves as any indication.
4) Ryan Braun, outfielder, Milwaukee Brewers
Stats: .307/.367/.522 in 205 at-bats (54 games)
As polarizing as the prospects of Braun in Dodger blue may be, it’s an avenue that must be considered.
Braun is a six-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger recipient with a MVP (2011), Rookie of The Year (2007) and MLB’s home run leader crown (2012). Braun’s career has been tainted by a failed drug test in 2011. After denying any wrongdoing, he was again found associated with PEDs and the Biogenesis scandal, resulting in a suspension for the remainder of the 2013 season (he had played 29 games).
More scrutiny has arisen since. Braun has posted career-lows after returning and his decline was seeming accelerating, prompting many to believe he was a product of PEDs. The decline has been greatly exaggerated, however. Braun was an All-Star last season and slashed .285/.356/.498 with 25 homers and 84 RBI while providing average defense. He looks back in MVP form this season. The floundering Brewers are rumored to be shopping Braun. The team is in full rebuild mode and he is signed to a massive contact until 2022.
Here’s the breakdown (via spotrac.com):
At least his price descends?
That’s a lot of coin to commit to a player with Braun’s baggage, which is why he’s lower on the list. Already 32, Braun’s prime is coming to an end. After the Crawford fiasco and paying a declining Gonzalez $21M through 2018, taking on more salary isn’t in the franchise’s best interests. Especially if it is considering a run at Bryce Harper or others in the loaded 2018 free agent class.
All of that said, the Dodgers are an obvious candidate for the Los Angeles native, especially given the teams capable of acquiring him. Braun can block a trade to all but six teams: the Dodgers, Angels, Giants, Diamondbacks, Padres and Marlins. It’s safe to assume he values nice weather.
With limited competition, the Dodgers could get Braun without an ongoing bidding war, though the Giants may be involved. L.A. could potentially lessen the prospect blow by absorbing more money, but the financial end of a Braun deal is complicated (most pundits expect Milwaukee to eat a large portion of salary).
In the end, Braun is a risky proposition. If he plays as he is now, he is the perfect remedy for the offense. But signed long-term for such a large price is frightening. Even the optimist would agree that Braun’s prime will expire within three years, if not sooner.
3) Wil Myers, outfielder/first baseman, San Diego Padres
Stats: .281/.321/.504 in 256 at-bats (65 games)
This suggestion comes at the heels of Jon Heyman’s report that San Diego is “open” to trading Myers.
this isn't the first guy they want to trade, but pads seem open to just about anything at moment https://t.co/Gzv8tpvdeP
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) June 16, 2016
Myers has had a roller coaster career. He was considered one of the best prospects in the game in Kansas City’s farm system before being traded to the Rays as the headliner of the James Shields deal. In Tampa Bay, he won Rookie of the Year in 2013 with a .293 average and 13 homers through 88 games.
The next two years were not as kind to the Thomasville, North Carolina, native. His average dropped to .222 as he battled injuries. He was traded to the Padres in a three-team deal with Washington prior to the 2015 season. Myers put up .253/.336/.427 in his first season in San Diego.
The 2016 season has become Myers’ long-awaited breakout campaign. His 14 homers and eight stolen bases are already the best of his career. He’s on pace to shatter career-highs in at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, RBI, walks, slugging percentage and OPS. Myers has been used at first base and all outfield positions. His versatility makes him that much more appealing on the market.
Still only 25 and under team control through 2019, Myers could command enormous value. Any team in need of a bat will check in. The Dodgers and Padres have engineered trades before, so the division isn’t a concern in this instance.
The downsides to Myers are health and consistency. This season may be a flash in the pan, in which case the team which acquired him just gave a premium for a one-year wonder. It’s also questionable, if Myers has turned the corner, why would San Diego try to dump a key piece of the rebuild? Then again, much of the franchise’s decision making over the last few years has been lackluster.
2) Kole Calhoun, outfielder, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Stats: .293/.366/.455 in 246 at-bats (65 games)
Calhoun’s situation is similar to Myers’. Unlike Myers, there haven’t been any rumors surrounding Calhoun. This is pure speculation.
The Angels and Dodgers have done business recently (Howie Kendrick, Andrew Heaney), so another deal shouldn’t be discounted. Anaheim has the consensus worst farm system in the game and is sitting last in the American League West. Accumulating young talent should be prioritized over an area rivalry with a team in the other league.
Calhoun is the most valuable tradeable asset for the Angels (moving Trout makes no sense). A package bringing back multiple near MLB-ready prospects could tempt the Halos to trade their gold glover.
He doesn’t offer the flash of Braun, but Calhoun is more reliable, younger and cheaper. He is a plus in mostly every category, but won’t stand out in any. He’s currently having a career-year at the plate, and collected his first gold glove in 2015. He is under team control through 2019 and earns 3.4M this season.
It wouldn’t be erroneous to refer to Calhoun as Anaheim’s second best player. For a team looking to get Trout some help, trading Calhoun isn’t the best course of action. But if the franchise decides to do a full rebuild around trade, dealing Calhoun is the best way to replenish the farm. The Dodgers have the depth and need to match with the Angels. Calhoun, the most unlikely name on this list, would be a long-term fix for Los Angeles.
1) Jonathan Lucroy, catcher, Milwaukee Brewers
Stats: .311/.368/.527 in 222 at-bats (61 games)
Jonathan Lucroy is the most realistic, affordable and logical upgrade with upside.
Catcher is an overlooked need. Incumbent starter Yasmani Grandal is never going to be a threat with a bat in his hands. Since hitting .297 in 226 plate appearances as a San Diego Padres rookie in 2012, he has posted annual averages of .216, .225, .234 and is currently batting .190. His present OBP of .309 is his career-worst by a large margin. It’s time for the organization to explore alternatives.
Catchers are at a premium in today’s MLB. Lucroy has stood out as one of the best in the game throughout his seven-year career. He’s slashing .284/.342/.438 for his career. Lucroy is 30 years old with a $5.25M club option for 2017, which is nearly guaranteed to be picked up no matter his uniform.
Lucroy said last offseason he’d welcome a trade to a winning team. He has slight control over his destination with a limited no-trade clause. The teams on the list haven’t been revealed, though its reported Washington is one of them.
One downside to Lucroy is health. He doesn’t exactly have a reputation as an iron man, and last season he suffered a broken toe and concussions, which resulted in one of his weaker performances. While he’s bounced back strong so far, committing a long-term deal to him is risky.
Another fault will be the asking price. Competition for Lucroy’s services will be fierce. Texas has been heavily pursuing the catcher for quite some time, while some non-contenders (such as the Rays or Braves) could deal pitching to secure him for the future. Los Angeles has the power to outbid others, but Friedman’s conservative approach likely stops the war before it gets out of hand.
One idea could be a Lucroy-Braun package, with L.A. absorbing more of Braun’s deal than just a solo trade. The parameters are difficult because it requires the Brewers deal their two best chips for proper value while still dumping salary. It’s also hard to say if the Dodgers’ days of eating big deals are done, but this particular trade could be a difference maker in the National League for the next 3-5 seasons.
With the Giants, Mets, Nationals and other direct competitors pursuing external upgrades, the Dodgers cannot stand back. It may not be one of the names listed here, but unless there is an offensive awakening in the next month, Los Angeles is going to have to make a deal or risk missing the postseason.